13th annual 24-Hour Musical stuns and charms with ‘Seussical the Musical’

September 15, 2017

Anything’s possible, as Dr. Seuss reminds us in “Seussical the Musical.” And he’s right—anything really is possible. Creating a full-length musical in just 24 hours is possible. Putting on a fun, humorous, quirky show with a meaningful message, exuberant characters, spectacular set design, vibrant costumes and an overall feel-good energy is possible.

On Sunday, a host of spectators—Brandeis students, alumni and other community members—crowded into the Carl J. Shapiro Theater in the SCC for the 13th annual 24-Hour Musical. And when I say crowded, I mean two rows of students sitting on the ground at the front of the theater in addition to more students stacked on the theater’s stairs. There was extra seating in the SCC atrium for those students who couldn’t get their hands on much coveted tickets. Those who left the winding ticket line empty handed could sit and watch the live steam of the show right outside of the theater.

‘Seussical’ cast takes on a high-energy group number.

What started out as a student’s senior thesis 13 years ago is now one of Brandeis’ most popular school traditions and theater productions. The Undergraduate Theatre Collective (UTC) has put on their renditions of musicals such as High School Musical, Peter Pan, Grease and others in the past in just 24 hours. Each year is a success, and this year’s “Seussical” was no exception.

Dr. Seuss is a classic, and that’s that. Many of us grew up marveling at Dr. Seuss’ wild, inventive stories. It’s Suess’ ability to transport us to these alternative worlds and spark the childish imaginations we once all had that makes his works so memorable and beloved.

With music by Stephen Flaherty and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, “Seussical the Musical” fuses some of Dr. Seuss’ best stories and characters into one show. This musical features famous characters including Cat in the Hat, Things 1 and 2, the Grinch, Horton, Jojo, the Sour Kangaroo from “Horton Hears a Who!” and General Genghis Khan Schmitz from “I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew.” Though the intertwinement of all of these characters can get hectic, the Cat in the Hat (Ben Greene ’21) narrates the entire musical in rhymes.

“Seussical” tells the story of Horton discovering the Who’s, a species of tiny people, on a speck of dust. In a comical series of events, Horton loses track of the speck—and gets tricked into protecting an egg for 51 weeks by the manipulative character, Mayzie La Bird.

Horton, played by Noah Schultz ’21 is ridiculed for believing in the Who’s existence. He even faces a court hearing against his belief in and protection of the speck and egg, but then Whoville resident Jojo (Ryan Del Vasto ’20) shouts “YOPP” and proves him right.

Gertrude McFuzz (Lauren Komer ’21) is the one to find the lost speck. She and Horton fall in love and their mysterious red and white polka-dotted egg hatches into a strange half elephant, half bird baby creature. All the while, the Cat in the Hat is trying to teach Jojo that it is okay to “think”—the Who’s look down on imagination and thinking outside the box.

Speaking of the Cat in the Hat, he truly stepped up to the plate. Greene had such a huge stage presence from the get-go, never deviating from his character—except for when the actors messed up or got confused, but that is the very nature of the 24-hour musical.

Greene claimed his spot as the musical’s narrator when he first jumped and pranced onto the stage wearing cat face makeup, black, white and red clothing, and, of course, the red and white striped top hat. He not only looked the part, but he fully embodied the Cat in the Hat through his wide smiles and quick, energetic movement across the stage. There wasn’t a dull moment with the Cat in the Hat—Greene sang, danced and jumped around throughout the entire show.

The other protagonist, Horton, was nothing but entertaining and humorous. Although Schultz oftentimes looked confused or timid, that helped him embody the Horton character, and he was fun to watch. His performance brought tons of laughter to the packed theater.

Jojo, played by DelVasto, Gertrude McFuzz and Sour Kangaroo (Leah Chanen ’20) mastered their roles and impressed the crowd with their singing abilities. Most notable was Chanen’s continuous belting of notes every time she took to the stage. These three actors came to impress and to entertain, succeeding in both.

General Genghis Khan Schmitz’s (Nate Rtishchev ’21) angry expressions and mannerisms were so perfect for his role that even actors on stage were trying hard to suppress laughs during the scene where they chant lines from Dr. Seuss’ “Green Eggs and Ham.”

The set and costumes were well-thought-out and executed—tall trees topped with fluff-balls from “The Lorax.” The platform showed a river sandwiched between two green bushes that were covered in little rainbow-colored pom-pom balls.

The set was vibrant, almost as vibrant as the costumes. Mayzie La Bird and her bird squad commanded the stage with their bright shirts, tutus and feathers. The Cat in the Hat’s costume was spot-on with the red suspenders, the signature top-hat and face make-up.

The most memorable moments of this year’s 24-Hour Musical was the trial where Horton is accused of insanity for talking to a speck of dust and sitting on an egg. Yertle the Fighting Terrapin (Ben Steinberg ’18) presides over this case in a white judge’s wig and black cloak, gripping a cardboard gavel that says “Brandeis Judges” on it. Thing 1 and Thing 2 stand on both sides of Yertle. One holds a sign that reads “We Came to Bang,” and the other holds a sign that reads “The Gavel,” making fun of Brandeis’ spirit song. At Circus McGurkus, characters blurted out where they’re all from: Waltham, Tokyo and California, among others. But then one character says “Bentley” and the next responds “I prefer Brandeis,” which was a crowd-pleasing joke.

Comical moments that weren’t scripted or staged, like Horton slowly and sadly wheeling himself off stage on a chair (because somebody forgot to help him exit the scene), also prompted loads of laughter. Other times, actors forgot their lines, cracked up on stage or simply didn’t know what they were doing (but, again, slip-ups are why the 24-Hour Musical is so hilarious and high in demand each year).

As the show went on and the actors all made silly mistakes—in the spirit of 24-hour—the actors seemed to get more comfortable on stage. Kudos to this year’s co-presidents Sivan Ertel ’18 and Zak Kolar ’18, the production staff, the techies, the cast and crew and UTC’s executive board for putting on such a lively show.

“Seussical the Musical” brings to life all of Dr. Seuss’ classics and allows your mind to roam free. Not only did this year’s 24-Hour Musical elicit the nostalgia of our beloved childhood stories, but it reminded audience members of the importance of loyalty, unity, acceptance and uniqueness. With the chaos happening around our world today, the UTC’s performance provided a refreshing energy that everyone in the theater felt.

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